(Photo: A colour palette of All Sorts Acre wool)

A colour palette of All Sorts Acre wool. All Sorts Acre, located outside Guelph, Ontario, is a member of a “fibreshed,” the textile equivalent of the 100-mile diet. Created from local sheep, dyes and labour, the wool is made in a way that bolsters the local economy – and ecosystem – instead of the socioeconomic status quo.
Photo by Jennifer Osborne

When I start a new semester of teaching, I don a t-shirt that has one word on the front: “unlearn.” The word is printed from right to left, so that it only becomes clear when you look in the mirror. On the back of the shirt it says (also in reverse), “This may be difficult to grasp but reversing our thought processes might just be the key to happiness.” The message I want to convey to my students is that to move sustainbility forward, it is necessary to question some of the values, beliefs and social norms we take for granted. This is the message Kate Fletcher brings to the fashion and textile industry.

Over the last two decades, Fletcher has helped shape the direction of sustainability in both fashion and textiles through her leading-edge thinking and progressive outlook. Her wisdom encourages manufacturers, designers, retailers and consumers to ask, “Why?” For example, consumers are encouraged to ask, “Why do I need this new pair of shoes?” Manufacturers to consider, “Why do I need to use this chemical when I produce cotton?” And retailers to question, “Why do I need to offer new styles so frequently?”

More importantly, by proposing an alternative framework for our current fashion industry, Fletcher encourages those same people to ask “Why not?” Her ideas challenge what we – both members of the fashion industry and consumers – have come to believe is acceptable, even fashionable. What if we were to reverse our socially engrained thought processes and make it cool to wear the same outfit to every wedding we attend? What if thrift shops became the new Gucci (minus the Gucci price tag, of course)? What if it became trendy to get to know the person who makes your clothes?

Fashion is one area of our lives in which we have some control and can really drive change. Fletcher’s article provides a thought-provoking look at the current state of fashion and where it should be headed. Imagine the possibilities, she says.
Then do something to realize them. Now. – Jennifer Lynes

Kate Fletcher is a sustainable fashion pioneer, founder of the Slow Fashion consultancy, and the author of Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys. She is also professor of Sustainability, Design, Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts, London, UK.

Jennifer Lynes is associate professor and director of the Environment and Business program at the University of Waterloo. She is also the chair of REEP Green Solutions. Her research focuses on the intersection of marketing and sustainability.

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